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Summer PIF Program Welcomes Special Named Grants

The Law School's Public Interest Fellowship (PIF) program funded a record 123 summer grants this year. Thirty-nine second-year and 84 first-year students landed legal internships with government agencies and public interest organizations in 21 U.S. states and 3 countries abroad.

From the Alaska Department of Law to the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, the Habeas Corpus Resource Center in San Francisco to Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid, and over to the Human Rights Law Network in New Delhi, Cornell students honed their practice skills as they helped under-represented clients receive much-needed legal representation.

In recognition of Cornell Law School’s successful PIF program, the following law firms and bar association project have established named PIF grants for Cornell Law students.

The Albert E. Arent ’32, LL.B. ’35 – Arent Fox LLP Public Interest Fellowship.

This fund was established in 2007 to support public interest fellowships at Cornell Law School with preference given to students who have expressed an interest in the civil rights aspect of public interest law. The fund has supported 7 fellows since its inception. This summer Jefferson Yi ’12, interned with the Texas Civil Rights Project. “I want to practice in civil or human rights upon graduation because I feel called to help the needy and the poor.” Jefferson told the firm in reporting on his summer experience. “I have drafted demand letters and complaints for clients in wheelchairs who have been denied access to restaurants and bars; drafted discovery requests for a county jail that did not provide an interpreter for a deaf inmate who had been raped; and written a memo analyzing legal arguments to challenge funding disparities that affect the educational equity within a school district. I thank you for your generous support, even in these tough times, to those of us who are committed to public interest.”

The Mehri & Skalet, PLCC Public Interest Fellowship.

The Merhi & Skalet fellowship has been awarded to 6 students since 2008.  The fund supports public interest fellowships with a preference given to students working for national not-for-profit public interest groups. This summer, Ben Tettlebaum ’11, worked for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in Santa Monica, CA. He writes “I have been fortunate this summer to work on a variety of legal and policy assignments. This work has been a tremendous learning experience. Not only have I drafted legal memoranda analyzing issues for appellate litigation under the Clean Air Act, the California Environmental Quality Act, and the national Environmental Policy Act, but I have also had the opportunity to work on environmental justice issues for poor communities. Some of this work has involved testifying for cleaner air and open space, helping craft a strategy to employer local communities to hold large transportation projects accountable to environmental standards, and investigating how to create greater protection for marine mammals in foreign waters. Your commitment to Cornell and to service has inspired and given me hope for my own ability to perform and facilitate substantive work in public interest.”

The Liz Kasulis Padilla Public Interest Fellowship at the Brooklyn Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP).

This fund was established in 2006 to honor the memory of Liz Kasulis Padilla ’02, who was an attorney at VLP at the time of her death in 2005. The VLP is a free legal services program for indigent people in Kings County, and is the one of the only program of its kind that operates borough-wide in Brooklyn. The VLP recruits, trains and supports volunteer attorneys from the private bar and matches them up with programs designed to meet critical community needs. In addition, VLP attorneys and interns provide individual representation to clients in consumer, family law matters, and in response to the current economic climate, has developed a significant foreclosure prevention project. Each summer, one Cornell Law student is selected to carry on VLP’s important work in Liz’s name.  This summer's Kasulis Fellow was Brooklyn native Ilya Leyvi '12.

To contribute to PIF or explore developing a named grant of your own, please go to: http://www.lawschool.cornell.edu/alumni/giving/make_a_gift.cfm